Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In a Shameless Attempt to Encourage Reviews, a One-Day Push for Reviews to Happen on Any Book, in Many Places

This particular place in the interweb is probably the least useful place to announce this, because I know most of the people who swing through here regular-like have also reviewed books - mine, other people's - etc. Still, it's a very helpful thing to do to review books, particularly on-line in the eBook future. Your reviews on commerce sites matter more than they have ever mattered before.You can make a difference in the life and livelihood of your preferred creators.

I'm going to do this, too, in approximately three minutes. I'm going to post a review on these three sites for two books I liked that I realize I hadn't reviewed. I will be reviewing "The Honey Month" by Amal El-Mohtar, and "The Book of Cthulhu" edited by Ross Lockheart.

Ergo, here's the thing, I'm going to be very Catholic about this. I want you to go review a book today.

Any book.

I want the review on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, and one other place like GoodReads or Kobo or LibraryThing or your own blog.

Post your review @Amazon+Barnes & Noble+one more place

e-mail me a link to the reviews you post today.

I'm going to be very Catholic about this. I don't care what book you review, or who wrote it. It could be Eragon. It could be Of Blood and Honey. It could be a manual for the proper comment procedure for computer code, or something equally tedious. Pick a book you read recently, that you liked. Post your reviews on the major commerce sites. Do this, and point me to the links to your reviews, and I will send you one eBook of any of my eBooks. And, if you happen to review my books, I thank you.

Remember, in our digital future, you matter more than you have ever before.

In other news, I'm moving, so though I'm so close to done with this steampunk cinderella novel I can taste it, I don't have time to finish it, because I am packing and moving boxes and doing stuff involved with moving. I hate moving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

[Free Fiction] Tiresius


Everyone remembers how he was blind, but nobody remembers the why of it. He blinded himself, when he was made a woman for seven years by pitiless gods.

When he was young and he wasn’t yet a prophet, the gods turned Tiresius into a woman. She found, after being a man among men, that she could not live among her people as a woman. She learned the truth about the men and women of her time and place in a flash of violence: men were drunk and laughing together all the time; women endured. Tiresius could not walk the streets alone without the risk of rape. She could not stand in a doorway and say hello to the men that used to be her friends. They looked at her differently now. They had a smile that should not have been there. They had a lingering touch that promised of unwanted advances, and soon.

Want to read the rest? head over to to read the rest. Or, one could go to the nearest eBook retailer for a copy of the whole collection, now before it goes live.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shamelessly, I Direct You Towards My eBooks Because I Know People Be Getting Them Some Nooks and Kindles.

Merry Christmas, Kwanzaaa, Chanukkah, Festivus, etc.!

Santa Claus, and his various and diverse cast of sidekicks and NPCs, are coming to town. They are, undoubtedly, carrying a lot of eReaders and Tablet devices along to drop at households all over the world.

So, just in case you happen to be one of those households, or if you happen to acquire a gift card for your favorite retailer and decide to look for something me-related regardless of format, I'd just like to point out that there are things available, and you could purchase them, read them, etc.

At Barnes & Noble, there are many things. Here's a link with all the things:

There is even something I haven't announced, yet, because I haven't had two seconds to spare and put together the website for it... Nor do I particularly like the cover that's on it, at the moment...

There's an Amazon page with all sorts of stuff, too.

Also, if you just want the things I did for fun and experimental purposes as eBooks, there's a Smashwords page with links to many formats:

So, that's the shameless post where I am the selfish dude who demands your retail dollars.

It's an American Christmas Tradition.

Monday, December 19, 2011

[Free Fiction] Siren

“Yet lost were I not won;
For beauty hath created been
T’ undo, or be undone.”

– from Ulysses and the Siren by Samuel Daniel

Don’t let that lying creep, my first manager that we fired, suggest it was him. Odysseus was my first.

My Odysseus walked up the beach with his friends and a surfboard under his arm, an olive-skinned man with hair curled and dark. Muscular, and famous, I knew him on sight. I was posing with a book I didn’t read for the camera men along the edge of the sand. I was alone, against the rules my parents had set for me. There I was. I believed I could sing, but it was a voice that came from deep inside of me, passed through microphones and soundboards and sound men. I had never heard my voice alone in an empty room. I never sang unless I had to, for joy. It was my job, and I was told to rest my voice outside the studio.

Read this one, for free, at or pick up the whole collection or go grab a copy of the PopFicReview where this particular story first appeared

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today is my Birthday. Send me a Dollar. So I can Buy Beer.

Today is my birthday. Do you know what I got for my birthday?

So, that's pretty cool. I haven't been translated into a foreign language before, and it is probably not supposed to be as exciting as I find the whole prospect, once I've done it a few times, but I am new enough at this whole thing that it is still very, very exciting.

Translation by Kamil Lesiew
Irina Pozniak design with art by someone calling themselves anotherwanderer

Also, since today is my birthday, you should send me a dollar. That way I can buy beer. The best way to send me a dollar is by picking up an inexpensive eBook at your preferred eBook retailer. You know you have an eBook-capable device, and even if you don't care for them, the art world is moving that way, so the sooner we all get used to reading our art off screens, the better. Also, that way I get to buy beer.

Today is my birthday. Send me a dollar. So I can buy beer.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Invocation and Happenings

I have a moment lingering between drafts, and I'm about to push through to the end of what I hope should be the final on something. It's something. Maybe it will be something good. It's a boost to the body and mind to know that early reviews of WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS are turning up, and it looks to be a well-received book. I particularly want to point out the SFSignal article, because it is not everyday my work is described in the same breath as Ann McCaffery. I was sad to hear she had passed on. As a young reader, I became hooked on Lloyd Alexander novels in the third or fourth grade, tearing through them and re-reading them all, because my path in life was changed forever when I encountered "The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha" in about the 3rd grade. After Lloyd Alexander, in junior high school and high school, I was swallowed up by the dragons of Pern and Ann McCaffery. Many of the sci-fi/fantasy fans around me were devouring Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, which is cool, I liked them, too. But, I didn't like them as much as I did Ann McCaffery who seemed concerned less about dystopias as she was about people living their lives in impossible circumstances, colonizing worlds, and working together towards making humanity a better, grander, more beautiful species in conjunction with the forces of their worlds. I preferred Ann McCaffery. After I finished reading all I could find by Ann McCaffery, I moved on to Stephen King, and from there, I grew up beyond the need to obsess so much in just one imagination, when I could obsess about dozens of imaginations, all at once. I wish she was still around to know that, that she was a part of this career I seem to have, and an important part, and that her worked fundamentally mattered, because it inspired people.

Anyway, I'm procrastinating when I need to get back to work work work work work.

The Erudite Ogre writes about my work in the same breath as Ann McCaffery:

The more improbable this is, the more intensely we must imagine, the more creatively we must invoke, the more audaciously we must believe the lie. All fiction is a lie at the start, and what makes it true is what we can produce from it. This occurred to me while reading J. M. McDermott's forthcoming book When We Were Executioners, with its fantastical secondary-world that is made alive by the finely-grained details and the palpably convincing characters. It is, on one level, a simple world, of kings and criminals, of sadness and malice. The worldbuilding is neither complex nor epic, and it is certainly not a place to which one might wish to escape. But the world comes viscerally alive in the reading, and its bleakness and desperation are strongly mirrored in the shabby edges and sticky innards of the world's workings. Despite the darkness and desperation that suffuse the novel, it comes alive because what enters the reader's mind are not baroque details of social structure or the coolness of a complex magic system, but people trying to survive, to do their duty, in the hustle and muck of everyday life.

Publisher's Weekly Reviews WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS:

The second Dogsland novel picks up where Never Knew Another left off, with a wolfskin-wearing priest and priestess of Erin reconstructing the last days of Jona, Lord Joni, a half-demon corporal of the King’s Men, from residual dreams that imbue his found skull. Hoping to track down and terminate two similarly demon-tainted Dogslanders of Jona’s acquaintance—Rachel Nolander, his lover, and Salvatore Fidelio, his detested enemy—the priestly pair follow Jona’s memories through adventures that include his clashes with drug smugglers and his assassination of suitors to the daughter of a powerful lord, whereby Jona hopes to manipulate the succession. McDermott make Jona a compelling antihero, by turns ruthless and compassionate. The author’s real achievement, though, is his vivid evocation of Dogsland, a quasi-medieval realm whose squalor, depravity, and brutality give credible context for the best and worst behaviors, as well as the novel’s subtly fantastic goings-on. Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Feb.)

Now, in other news entirely, it is Monday, and another story from Women and Monsters is going live to the dedicated website: This one is about Cerynitis:
The 12 Labors of Hercules include numerous instances of impossible animals. For instance, the Cerynean Hind was sacred to Artemis, and could outrun arrows and the spring of traps. Hercules had to present it, still alive, to his taskmaster.

Animals like me do not speak, but if we could, we would tell you about my brother, the legendary boar and how he plagued the king of the mountains. My brother the boar ravaged ground, tearing up crops and eating it, and spears bounced from his back and men died at his tusks and walls tumbled before his fury. A man was sent after him in the skin of a lion. The two, brother and man, wrestled until winter came, and snow fell and all the mountains of the world were red with both of their blood and struggling.

To him, the man in the skin of a lion, he was in a battle with a terrible monster, determined to drag it back to a menagerie of wild beasts and mysterious things from the deep places of the world.

To read the rest of this story, head on over to the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. and pick up a copy of the full collection for just 6.99!

Or, go to the website, and wait for every Monday, as the stories slowly seep out into the internet.

I am writing a book, at the moment, that could be described as steampunk, though I don't feel the term has much meaning beyond mere art direction and costume design. But, there it is. And I am writing it. And I am going back to it, now. Be at peace, intertubes.

Oh, one more thing. INVOCATION is the name of a craft beer local to me, here in Decatur, GA, from WILD HEAVEN brewery. It is delicious, roasty
and toasty, Belgian-style ale and a perfect beverage for a dreary December evening. If you have a chance, check out their stuff. It's very nice after a long day of pulling words out of my head.

Update to Add: Hey, THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS got it's first review at!
I'm the type of reader who typically goes for the safe bet... ie top sellers printed by major publishing houses, with reems of reviews to peruse before making a purchase. As a reader of Athan's blog however, I knew the guy had the know how to take on something like this and not disappoint.

Tales From The Fathomless Abyss does not disappoint.

This is a professional, polished collection of very original and very different short stories. I've read other fantasy and sci-fi short story collections, and TFTFA is every bit as good as any of them. There's a very seasoned editor at the helm here, and it shows.

With any collection, there are bound to be some stories that one likes better than others. Of the six here, three I thought were quite good, and three were decent-but-not-great. The setting (the Fathomless Abyss) is interesting for various shorts, although I wonder how it'll do in a full-length novel (there are several novels based on this setting on the way, so I hear). I guess time will tell.

Overall, 4 stars. It's an entertaining read, and well worth the $5 it costs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

[Free Fiction] Io

“For I am full of fear when I behold

Io, the maid no human love may fold,

And her virginity disconsolate”

– Aeschylus, from Prometheus Unbound


I speak bee. No one believes it, except maybe my friend Europa, but I learned the language. My mother taught it to me, when I was very young. What you do is you place honey on your finger, your nose, and then a splash of floral perfume upon the back of your jeans. Then, you go into a field to speak to the bees, who find you because of the smell, and then they watch you to see what you have to say. You shiver, and move forward, then shiver again. Shivering looks like shaking your butt, like shimmying, but it’s not. It’s shivering. It’s a complex language. It took years of practice. I’ve gotten so I can get their attention even if I don’t have any honey or floral perfume.

read the rest?

The Abyss Collective

If you see a big hole in the ground, lined with cities, don't go in. Once you do, you might find yourself the unfortunate protagonist in a story by one of us author types.

My contribution? It's Mine.

Friday, December 2, 2011

radio silence, going dark, down down down

be at peace, intertubes.

trying to finish this bloody thing...

Monday, November 28, 2011

[Free Fiction] Charybdis and Scylla

Monsters are made, not born. Transformation, like lost virginity, is a crossing that can’t be undone.


Neighbors all our lives and no one else looks after us since our husbands died so we take care of each other until we’re killed by this stranger. Who else will? There’s this thing that happens to women who live long enough. It’s like people only look at us to sell something. Used to be, when I was a pretty young thing, sunlight beaming at me from everywhere and everyone all the time enough to make me ashamed of myself, and then I got a certain age and it was like I was a whirlpool threatening to swallow everyone whole if they so much as looked at me in the face. I thought I looked like still water – a nice old lady – and I cultivated that look.

I have to tell you about me, that I’m not a nice lady. Neither is Scylla. Don’t you forget that about us. We know better than to let people push us around, and we don’t go gentle into that good night.

Read the rest? ->

Friday, November 25, 2011


The Fifty Menai were goddesses of the lunar months, daughters of moon goddess, Selene, and the mortal, Endymion, asleep for her love for all time. Some deities are echoes of older ones, supplanted by the Olympians and fading into the background of myths, quiet and mostly forgotten.

She stood in the doorway covered in flour from the moon, like a light layer of snow. First, though, she had been out in the backyard with my sister and me on a tire swing.

Her parents were divorced, too. She had told us that about herself when we met. My sister and I didn’t talk about more than that, because our parents were divorced and it was the greatest source of fear and loathing in our lives to that point and we didn’t want to talk about our own parents any more than she wanted to talk about hers.

Read the rest at

Monday, November 14, 2011


‘My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.’

-from Hesiod’s Theogony

I did nothing to deserve the way he treated me. All that nonsense my children talk about endlessly – a wedding, a war between titans and children of titans and all for our sake, him and me, heaven and earth – don’t believe a word. All that really happened between us was just the argument that broke out because we hadn’t quite invented marriage so we couldn’t quite divorce when he invented infidelity.

Here’s the true story. I was asleep in a field. Goodness, I was the field. He came by like a cloud over me. His shadow passed over me like nightfall. He looked down at my beauty, at how beautiful I was as a field, naked and asleep with nothing to cover me. He wept because I was so beautiful. Then he did more than weep tears. That’s what woke me up.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where I will be on the 17th

See you there, if you can make it!

Monday, November 7, 2011


So flew the god and the virgin – he on the wings of love, and she on those of fear. The pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and his panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail, and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god: “Help me, Peneus! Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!”

-from Bullfinch’s Mythology

The first time your car was stolen, you were sleeping in the backseat in a pile of all your belongings. The thief didn’t know. He didn’t bother to check the back seat. He popped the lock and hotwired the car. The thief drove your car to the 24-hour grocery. When he left, to go to the store, he left the engine on. You were quick to take back the front seat and steal your own car back. Driving away, you saw him in line, buying a quart of milk. It was 3 AM, and none of the buses were running. You imagined him, with a baby that needed milk at 3 AM, and you couldn’t bring yourself to call the police on him.

At least he had somewhere to go. You had walked out on someone, after two years. You wanted to stay in the city, even if it meant sleeping in your car a few nights. If you went anywhere else, he’d find you – at your mother’s house, or a friend’s. He’d never find you in your car, deep in the heart of the city. You had nowhere to go, at the time, and you couldn’t hate the man who stole your car while you were sleeping in it because he had somewhere to go, for milk, with milk.

Keep reading...?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two Days No Writing

Friday and Saturday were lost days, so busy running around, with no time to sit still and work, think, do. Friday was all looking over places stripped and gutted by copper thieves to the dismay of the people showing the houses followed by cleaning and the betterment of living spaces with loved ones. Searching for houses in Atlanta is also searching for houses that haven't been destroyed by copper thieves, and won't be before we move in. Gotta love the drug war + the econopocalypse = unsustainable community-destroying activity. Hooray for the city.

Saturday, Angie and I went up north, into the mountains, to volunteer helping to build a water-catchment berms at the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center where they are developing permaculture farm techniques and educating folks in them. we learned about berms and sways. Hey, they have a labyrinth!

I've noticed when I'm working on a book (in part because my fiance has noticed it) that I get really, really spacy. I work for hours and come out dazed and confused, lost in a fog, like sleepwalking. I'm building a universe in my head, and have to take time to reintegrate with regular society. Even reading books, I can fall into this. All these years of reading and writing, I've probably knocked a few cogs and gears around up there. As such, I have found a day or two a week where I am out volunteering, working, or puttering around in the kitchen help me keep my balance and sanity while I work on a book.

Time will tell if the book that results is better for it.

Books, and the speaking of them. Scott Wolven's excellent book, CONTROLLED BURN, just went into paperback. If you have not picked it up, do so. I think this may be our book club selection for next month even though I have read it, already, because it would be a good book to read again and study a little closer. Lots of moving parts hiding under the surface.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and close friends and collaborators have started a website to honor the massive, huge, expansive anthology they just put out with Corvus, celebrating 100 years of Weird Fiction.

It also looks like it's going to become a major hub in surreal and speculative fictions for all things strange and odd and grotesque.

Check out for an interview with Neil Gaiman, some fabulous and horrific art, and an excellent short story, translated from the Belgian, "Kavar the Rat" that I quite enjoyed late at night, to unsettle my dreams with a dose of the strange. There's even a comic strip. I imagine there will probably be surreal videos, and performance arts, stilt-walkers and clowns and seamstresses that work only in the medium of octopus tentacles, perhaps some clocks and a series of ominous chimes that go off in the night, unexpectedly, when the city is trying to sleep, and no one really knows what's making all that noise.

Until such time as these many things appear on the site, there is a comic, art, an interview with Neil Gaiman, and an excellent short story.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BOOK CLUB: Half the Day is Night by Maureen McHugh

So, grab your books and let's all get to reading 'em.

HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen McHugh, her second novel after she won copious awardage for CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG is supposed to be another close, intimate portrayal of the people who live a few days or weeks ahead of the moment we live in, and I'm expecting great things.

As we go, feel free to leave comments and I'll pull up any interesting ones into this post.

Spiral sez:
I'm very much enjoying the story, particularly the not-overly-obtrusive-but-still-amazingly-well-done world-building. Mchugh's created a future that I doubt she could've known in 1994 would so eerily resemble the sort of thing we're actually headed toward or are already in (though perhaps corporations and banks were as mixed up then as now - I was but a wee lad in '94, naive, and not so world-weary...okay, I'm still naive, but...). The depth of the main characters - David and Mayla - is great. She really gets in their heads, from Mayla's nervousness over-analyzing on her "date" with Saad to David's desire to leave Caribe and his denial to come to grips with his violent past.

I've read enough SF that I don't think this is the kind of novel that'll be replete with explosions and high-octane action; maybe some, but to me, it feels more like a slow burn, kind of like the film Michael Clayton or an Elmore Leonard novel set a few years in the future.[/quote]

I'm getting close to the end, and I like the Elmore Leonard reference as things do pick up. I love the world-building, and the unobtrusiveness of it. The setting doesn't have the "OMG LOOK AT THAT COOL THING!" quality of a Rucker or Doctorow or Gibson or Stirling novel. Instead, it is a reflection/refraction of the character's lives and dramas. It is a way of enhancing the drama, not a distraction from it. Very well done.

I've also heard that she is in Publisher's Weekly Top Ten for her latest collection, and this is absolutely unsurprising to anyone who has encountered McHugh's work, anywhere, anywhen.

I'm loving the heck out of this book.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nemean Lion is Live, and Book Club

Nemean Lion went live this morning on the website:

Also, Book Club #2 starts tomorrow with HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT by Maureen McHugh.

Pick up a copy while you still have time and join me in the comments of tomorrow's post as we all read the book together.

As people post interesting comments, I'll include them up in the main post, credited to you.

Join us! It'll be fun!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Throw It In the Fire

When you discover your work is poo, when you are working on it, you want to just take the work and throw it in a fire. You don't lose anything when it is poo. You lose time, but you gain time by abandoning the poo for something that is not poo. You also take the lessons learned from the poo and try not to make poo next time. Burn the poo in the fire, and start something new.

Except that in the digital age, with our redundant backup systems and constant flash-drives and dropboxes and tricks and wizardry, nothing is ever burned.

Someday, I will find this poo again, and I will have to smell it. I can't just throw it away. I can't do anything with it but wait until I am bored some night and desire to scour the back recesses of my backup systems for things that merit a second attempt.

Which is a waste of time thing that I do when I am too lazy to do anything else.

I want a place inside my recycle bin. I want it to be called "The Fire" and when I open my recycle bin, I can put the thing in the "fire" and it burns that out, also burns it out of any backups, and burns files that are attached or related to it in some meaningful way. Good-bye worthless story notes! Good-bye dozen or so stilted disaster openings! Good-bye! You are now all in the fire.

There is too much permanence in our world. It is an allusion of permanence. With the flood of media and datapoints, and the way passwords and technology actually functions, that sense that we are building powerful webs of interconnected "work" is a myth. Computers go obsolete and become paperweights. Children care only that the machines are wiped before they are recycled when we die. They do their best to pull out the pictures, but these photograph albums are so cheap, and there's so many pictures, these days, that it will be a genuine hassle to sort them all, even as they are moved. Ergo, many will be lost. Many more will be, for all practical purposes, lost.

When we had fires, we were more particular about these things. We threw things in them, or we did not. If we kept them, we knew they were precious, because people didn't have so very many things to hold onto.

I have too many things. I want to start a fire in the street outside my apartment. I want to toss in all the things that have accumulated: old shoes, old clothes, old bric-a-brac and papers that may have had a meaning once and all these things that someone must deal with, probably me, and certainly nothing that will be of interest to anyone if something were to happen to me, and all these things would be left behind.

Burn it. Burn it all.

And this miserable, horrible draft?

I will now throw it into a fire, and try again, as if this one never existed, for it is poo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

FREE FICTION: "Ariadne After Theseus"

[Free Fitcion from]

Is there, then, no Beyond?

Is this our goal?

Is this our goal?

-from Ariadne on Naxos, an opera by Richard Strauss

Everyone always wants to know about when we were young and a little famous, and it’s really the most boring part of my life.

My father is dead. The dashing young man is famous somewhere else. I don’t know where. I don’t keep up with him. He left me because we were young, and confused, and because we knew – both of us knew – that what I wanted wasn’t him and what he wanted wasn’t me, and leaving me on an island was better than trapping me in a new palace labyrinth in some rich house in Athens. He was doing me a favor. Really, we both had just wanted away from where we were, and running away together had been the natural way to do it at the time. I moved on long ago. I wouldn’t even call him my great love. I wouldn’t even call him my pretty great love. Honestly, we never even made love. I’ve never been with a man.

You are probably about to be my great love. Look at you, you. You’re adorable. I mean it. You’re as delicious as hot chocolate in winter. You’re a goddess, to me.

Anyway, that’s all there is to know about that boy. Let’s talk about something else from my many travels.

Do you see this weird, squishy thing? It’s a box and it’s alive, and I think it’s lonely.

[Visit for the rest, and tell your friends!]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shamelessly Shambling Towards Word of Mouth

I'm going to be pretty shameless for a little while on Facebook and Twitter, so feel free to zone me out a while if you feel like you don't want to hear me going on about things one could buy.

There's a reason for this, and maybe it will all become clear here at the blog someday in the next few months, though it isn't really a professional goal so much as it is a personal thing that we're trying to accomplish with the aid of slightly better revenue. In the mean time, please consider posting reviews of things, even if your review is "I really liked this" with a link to a project at IndieBound or Amazon or Whatever. Like this:

<-I really liked this! In particular, I hope that folks can point out the books that are out with what we're all calling "traditional" publishers, these days, though it is as meaningless a term as calling them all purple-trout-baboon publishers.

So, the shameless self-promotion will be ramped up a bit around these parts. If there's anything you feel comfortable doing to help, I'd appreciate it.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Free Range Evil: a pet peeve of mine, when reading...

One thing that bugged me about my recent attempt at reading FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen, which I did not finish because I did not care for it at this time, was the free range racist in West Virginia.

There's this scene where one of the the main characters, an older white male, is in a steakhouse in rural West Virginia with a beautiful Bangladeshi woman, his assistant and probably about to be his mistress if I had read any farther along, who is very dark-skinned. When the old man goes to the bathroom, he is approached by what I refer to as a "free range bad guy" who is a racist and makes a lewd and racist remark, suggesting the possibility of a violent reaction.

I've seen this in lots of stories from writing workshops, too. This character appears, with perfect timing, who does the most horrible thing imaginable before stumbling back behind the curtains at the side of the stage, without a name, without a face, without any role in the fiction except to be this chaotic evil bastard who does a bad thing.

It's always a male, too. It's always a male figure that shows up to mug, rape, spit, punch, hit-and-run, and voice the wickedness of the world. Generally, this character is what would be referred to as a "lower class" character, the sort who would not be out of place in a round up of the "Usual Suspects" for any particular region of the country, whether an urban male with a dark hoody in the city, or a poor white trash racist in the country. If we're really lucky, we get an evil authority figure, like a cop or an employee of a business that surprise us with their free range evil.

When I meet this character, I am often struck by how the writer does not seem to have any emotional investment in that character, and no desire to really make them something that stands out as a character. They're stock. They're no better than the herd of redshirts who died on alien planets, or the countless African-Americans arrested on television screens early in the show or used to fill out the bustling station scene.

Evil is free range, roaming about, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, apparently. Every shadow, and every trip to the restroom in the club, or every step out behind the restaurant is an opportunity for evil to smell our aura and decide if we are ripe for the devil's touch.

In fiction, it drives me nuts to see it happen. When it's done well, like in Don DeLillo's fictions the roving bad characters are given a chance to be more than a stock hoodie or hick, to introduce himself and have a small character arc of his own between what he perceives himself to be and what he truly is. When it is done poorly, like in FREEDOM, it is a stereotype wrapped in a moment that is fleeting and unfulfilled.

Bad things happen, but there is something very trite and twee about such perfectly-timed evil, such convenient-to-the-plot random acts of evil, such stereotypical-stock character evil.

Imagine, in FREEDOM, if the character who made that racist quip about liking dark-skinned women stepped out of the restroom, and sat down to dinner with his wife and kids, who were all dark-skinned. It's still a racist quip, that his wife would probably not appreciate, but it becomes a reversal of tone where the guy who at first seemed kind of scary turns and and smiles, giving the main character a big thumbs-up about his date.

There are racists in the world, just as there are muggers and bad guys. They are the devil, a swirling chaos vortex of evil looking for a chance to bite away at society. Promoting "good things" like community action and charities, is an attempt to push back the devil, and make the things that drive people into the devil's care lesser and lesser a little bit every day.

But, how do we write about them?

I will say this about Jonathan Franzen's moment in FREEDOM: I did not feel like he ever really had a chance to sit down and talk with people from West Virginia. When I was seventeen, I traveled through there with a Drum and Bugle Corps (I played the Contrabass Bugle for the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps) and we spent a few days there, doing laundry and practicing. In the laundromat, the people were some of the friendliest, most helpful folks I'd ever encountered in a laundromat. I, in my youthful inexperience with laundry, confused front-loading washers with a dryer, because obviously it was a dryer for it had a door like a dryer. I went outside to play my horn in the parking lot, thinking nothing of this. Once it was revealed to me the true nature of laundry machinery, I had to rush to get my clothes out of the second washer and sorted into dryers before the bus decided it was time to move on to the next town with all 100 or so people involved with the touring musical group. The women there did not have to help me, because they were laundromat employees in a poor neighborhood, surrounded by an ethnically-diverse bunch of kids from Colorado/Utah/Texas/Etc but they did help. And, without their friendly and affable help, I'd have been wearing a lot of wet clothes for a while, on that tour, maybe catching some horrible illness as a result that would leave me smelling musty and gross for the rest of my life. I was being teased by my teenage peers for my laundry fail. I was going to be teased about it for a while, no matter what, but if I had damp, stinking laundry, I would be teased much longer, indeed.

It is this that I think about when I think about free range evil.

There is also free range good.

It is perfectly timed. It is out there, waiting in the wings, for a chance to step out into the spotlight. I don't remember the names of those two very nice, helpful women, who went above and beyond the call of duty to teach the silly kid how to get his clothes dry and hacked a couple extra dryers to do it without costing me all those coins I lost in the front-loading washer. These sorts of things make almost no appearance in fiction, that I can recall. It would be just as cloying and strange, in fiction, as free range evil, but t is out there, waiting for a chance to be helpful, and save the day.

In fiction, we have to deal with these things, floating out there, and waiting for a chance to step out of the chaos and change the course of lives. My advice is to avoid stereotypes, always make sure the free-range evil character is given an arc of their own where expectation about who they are or what they are twists and turns a little bit. Also, remember that there is probably more free range good in this world than bad. Maybe there should be more of it in fiction.

Monday, October 17, 2011


My name was just Korey, then. I was my mother’s only child. I had no father I knew. I grew up in a small town, in the country.

A carnival came to the big field, back behind the house I shared with my mother. I didn't know the carnival was coming to town that day. Just passing time and I saw it. I climbed over the back fence, and stood in the field behind the house where the grass grew wild and our small town ended in fields and fields and fields of long grass right up to the mountains. It was evening twilight. The stars were already peeking out from beyond the veil of the blue sky. Bugs jumped from stalk to stalk. I held my hands out to run them along the wispy tips of the grass. The bugs were going to the carnival, too, I reckon, after the bright lights and the sweet cotton candy. I heard the music over the hill. I wasn't expecting music like that – old music, like the kind they’d play for tap dancers. I wanted to go.

My mother said to me "Got the brain of a frog sometimes, girl" when I asked her. Then, when I asked her again, "No, and I mean it. You've got work in the morning."

Read the whole story for free, and the rest of the collection as it appears every Monday?->

Read the rest of the collection right away?-> Donate 5 dollars or more, or visit your preferred retailer of eBooks (smashwords, Amazon, Nook) for the full.


Amazon Kindle

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So, did you read EMBERS by Sandor Marai?

What did you think?


*hears the sounds of crickets*

Well, regardless, we can try again next month. This time, I've chosen a book early because ordering used took so long last time.

The book I've chosen is Maureen McHugh's second novel, HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT, which I have not read before, and I suspect other huge McHugh fans have also not read. I do this because there is a collection coming out in November from Small Beer Press that I suspect I will also be purchasing, and I really want to fill out my collection of Maureen McHugh books with first editions while they are still inexpensive.

If you read Embers, come on down to the comments section and let's talk about it, eh? I thought y'all wanted a book club!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For Immediate Release

Press Release type thing with one part bolded as it may be of particular interest to YOU, my fair blog readers:

Joe McDermott

In Greek mythology, the heroes cheat on their wives, go into murderous rages, seduce and abandon, drink too much, and destroy all the wondrous things in their world in the name of glory, desire, or maybe heroism. The women and monsters of these myths rarely get to speak for themselves. WOMEN AND MONSTERS by J. M. McDermott seeks to allow the muse to speak for herself, following in the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s PENELOPIAD and Carol Ann Duffy’s THE WORLD’S WIFE.

The surreal, post-modern short story collection by critically-acclaimed writer, J. M. McDermott, repurposes the characters from myths into explorations of the universal themes of life. Eurydice describes why she remained so quiet to drive her husband mad with doubt. Deianira explains her side of the death of Heracles. Ariadne moves on from the labyrinth, and from Theseus, beyond Naxos and into the city. Also, there are monsters like Charybdis and Scylla, the Nemean Lion, and the terrifying Gorgon.

This unconventional book is published unconventionally, and will have an unconventional launch to match. The collection begins as an eBook, only. The short story collection will also be released one story at a time, every Monday on a dedicated website: The site is open to donations, but encourages readers to go to different retailers to purchase the full eBook. After a successful eBook launch, a print edition will be forthcoming.

J. M. McDermott has always walked an interstitial line between fantasy and literature. His first novel, LAST DRAGON (Discoveries 2008), was described by Jeff VanderMeer as “William S. Burroughs writes Epic Fantasy” and by Paul Witcover in SciFi Weekly as “…like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH.” His work has appeared on the Best SF/F list at’s Omnivoracious blog, received nominations for the Crawford Prize for first fantasy, and on the ballot for the Rhysling Award in Speculative Poetry. His Dogsland Trilogy has received wide critical acclaim including praise from John Clute in Strange Horizons, Paul Goat Allen for Barnes & Noble, the Book Smugglers, and more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Long Weekend Updates

In Virginia, driving down I95 to Georgia. I was in Maryland for a funeral.

Updates: Disintegration Visions is in copyedits, and it always comes back.

Secret Projects continue in secret. Secretly wditing cool x
Cool things.

On November 17, 2011, I will be at Georgia Tech for a Science Fiction Symposium with many others, including Chesya Burke and Eugie Foster and Kathryn Ann Goonan. Should be a fabulous time.

Cool things happening.

Stop to acknowledge the loss then life again. Read any good books lately? I am reading in a car. Coming home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BOOK CLUB IS LATE: Mail is late.

I ordered the book two weeks ago from a used book vendor on-line, but it has not arrived yet. I'm very disappointed about this.

Anyone had a chance to start reading, yet?

I will update this post with your thoughts and observations even as I try to hunt down another copy of the book in question.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Addendum 2: What anti-Publishing Bias?

Let it be said that if an anti-publishing bias comes through in anything I've said, it is not because I have a bias against publishing. My bias is against the parts of publishing that do not act in a manner that is respectful of content creators and content consumers. This is not all of publishing. This might not be most of publishing. I know there are parts that are doing things that I don't like, and I am concerned by what I see.

Every contract negotiation is an adversarial one, even among best friends, and both parties are trying to do what they can to get the best possible deal. That doesn't mean a publisher is "bad" or "evil" or anything like that. It means they are a business.

Writers who do not educate themselves in the business of publishing will be unprepared when the business of publishing changes again. (Believe me, we've only seen the beginning of the changes to come in the digital revolution, and there are going to be some battles ahead.)

I know, for a fact, that I am also totally unconcerned with the question of whether the books in the narrowing marketplace are good or bad, at the moment, because they will be or they won't be depending on each individual book. I don't presume to judge whether a book at the formerly upper-midlist is "good" or not without reading it. What concerns me is that it will be harder to find places for books that used to be below that higher sales mark, many of which I loved to bits.

There will be blood in the months and years to come. Maybe even mine. Still, I don't believe for a minute that a post on the internet will impact my career much. If that were so, I know a few writers who wouldn't have careers. What I can gain from this post is the opportunity to invite people who know other things than I know to show up and speak out. I do this because I know the business climate is dramatically shifting, and if I don't stick my neck out to learn what I can, I won't be ready for those changes.

Make no mistake about this: Publishers and agents who are ethical are your best friend in the changing market. And publishers aren't going anywhere. And, I don't care how evil you think publishers might be, which they aren't, but they are a thousand times less terrifying than what Amazon could become, and publishers are our best hope to push against a functional monopoly of content formats and distribution. This is not really a question of what will happen to publishers. I hope to have killed that buzzing noise about the death of publishing or the death of New York publishing. It's not happening.

The questions are other things. What will happen to the interesting books that used to be the bottom of the midlist and now are not even on the list at all, and aren't even close to it? What will happen once writers who can financially afford to form their own publishing houses do it, on a large scale? Why does publicity seem to not work at all on eBooks, and what kind of publicity has proven to work?

(I disagree with Jeff VanderMeer about eBook publicity, by the way, but I take my info from Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her info lines up with stories I've heard of authors that discover their backlist titles sell really well for no apparent reason other than genre positioning.)

People are sensitive about stuff like this, because the change is happening very quickly and no one knows exactly what will shake out in the years to come.

Personally, I prefer to try and build the future I would like to see than to wait and see what happens without my influence, even if it leads to the end of my career. (Careers end all the time. Why not mine? I am not special or different from a thousand other quiet voices from centuries past.)

There are still many questions. I hope people stop by over at SFSignal to answer them, raise questions, raise hell, and in all ways discuss civilly what is happening, or has already happened, or what is not going to happen.

Thank you if you already have.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Addendum to Something About to Go Live at SFSignal...

Right, so my big digital publishing post is about to go live at SFSignal, spaced out over two days. I don't consider myself an expert on the subject, but I do think that throwing my ideas out there will encourage people who are experts to chime in with their perspective.

One of the things I didn't touch upon, though, is something I saw at least six times in my Twitter feed yesterday that drives me absolutely up the wall.

Some people are calling this the eBook "Gold Rush" which is accurate inasmuch as the original gold rush led to very, very little actual gold for prospectors, who mostly died dirty and violent and drunk and shoved into each other in tents that were riddled with lice.

What we are seeing is a gold rush, in that the supply depots and grifters and tool providers will make a killing in this gold rush. Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, etc., are going to make a million-billion dollars. We authors? No.

For us, it's more of a hopeful crawl than a gold rush. Income is slow, as always, and builds slowly, and word builds slowly, and there actually isn't very much money in it, but we're all very hopeful that we can STRIKE A BIG VEIN ANY DAY NOW!

Unless of course we are not hopeful for that big strike, and we prefer to continue doing what we do best: producing quality content that is worth a few dollars, and enough of it that people will provide us with enough money to keep us alive and off the government dole.


Right, so even though I'm still hammering out the details on the cover art with an awesome artist whose name you would recognize, I'm going to go ahead and post a link to the project that has come out, in case people stumble over here looking for it, and no one knows what the heck is going on about it:

check your favorite e-Retailer of eBooks for this one, folks, and/or hold your breath for a cover that isn't just one of two sketch placeholders.

I'm not officially "launching" this thing out right now, but it is out, and I guess it will launch "officially" in mid-October. (eBooks, and micropress books, benefit from a long, deliberate launch, I think...)

Full Version:

Discount Version With Just Two of the Stories as a Sampler/Teaser:

Also up at Barnes&Noble for Nook. And Smashwords (presumably their affiliates, too, eventually...)

As in all things eBook/MicroPress anything you can do to spread the word is helpful and appreciated. Also, as you're reading, if you come across any weird hiccups in formatting and spelling and whatnot, let me know. The manuscript was vetted by more than one editor on a story-by-story but that definitely doesn't mean a few ghosts haven't slipped through the package-ware. I've been clearing the chaff out, especially trying to get the formatting right on each device, but it's one of the reasons you want to do a soft launch of eBooks, so you have time to actually see them on a couple devices...

Anyway. Yeah. Not a gold rush for us, really, or only one in that the gold rush did not lead to very much gold for the prospectors back in the day.

I won't have time to update my website today, maybe not this week, but...

But... Moonlight Tuber #3 is live and in the world, including a story of mine.

Paul Jessup's Coffin Mouth is live, as well, with a story by me:

Also, as it will be outed in a few minutes by, I feel like I should mention this here, first, though I've been hinting at it for a couple weeks.

The cover isn't final (I'm hiring someone for that, and it's still in process), nor is absolutely all the layout and stuff final (I'm still tweaking it for each device), but the stories are there and any changes that happen, at this point, should be pretty minimal (except the cover):

Also up on Smashwords, Nook, if you care to look for it.

There's a discount sampler of the stuff, with just two of the stories, that are free on Smashwords, and 99cents on Kindle. Want to taste the stuff before deciding to buy the stuff? Got you covered: link.

If you like it, please tell people about it. Indie/Micro titles are always fighting to make themselves heard in this noisy world. Every little bit helps.

Have you read pieces of this in The Raleigh Review? In Coffin Mouth (linked above)? In The Journal of Unlikely Entomology? Have you said to yourself that you'd like to read a lot more of that sort of thing?

Well, there it is. It is a thing. It is in the world. Enjoy.

The world is changing. The book world is going through massive, huge, crazy, scary, amazing, wonderful changes. I go into some detail about that over at SFSignal, in two posts. The first of the two goes live in about half an hour. The second part goes live tomorrow.

There's also going to be an addendum to the two posts at SFSignal over here, in about half an hour, where I talk about this "eBook Gold Rush" that doesn't, actually exist...

Peace and Love,

J. M. McDermott

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hiring cover art for this thing that's in the world

It's showing up here and there as I send it out to reviewers.

The cover art isn't here, yet.

But, if you go out and look, you could find it.

The way eBooks work, I feel no need to do "One... Big... Launch..." which seems to work contrary to what eBooks actually do on the market, from what I can tell. It's a different animal. It's better to just do it one step at a time, and make sure every step is out in the open where one could, if one were so inclined, find it and help it along.

It's out there, but I won't tell you about it here until the cover art is in and done.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Awesome Book Club for Awesome Cool People Starts October 1st.

Simple rules.

1) I pick a book. It will be a book that I think looks interesting that I want to read. It will not be a thing that I have already read before, which defeats the purpose of this thing.

2) I will post on the 1st of the month about this book that we will be reading this month.

3) In the comments of that post, read along together. Post your thoughts, impressions, etc. Label spoilers so people can skip them if they wanna. Generally, I like the kind of books where knowing a spoiler doesn't change your reading experience much, so no worries about going crazy trying to avoid them.

4)I will pick interesting things that people say and edit them into the main post, so everyone can keep up with what is happening in the comments.

5) I will stop doing this for that post at the end of the month, when we begin the next book.

6) The next book will be announced at least two weeks before the next month begins, so we can all have time to locate a copy. I bet we're going to end up with some obscure things here and there, because what's the point of a book club dedicated to easy-to-find, easy-to-read stuff?

The book I have chosen for our book club, after consultation with some of y'all is this one:

EMBERS by Sandor Mari, translated by Carol Brown Janeway

From Publishers Weekly
Two very old men Konrad and Henrik, "the General" once the closest of friends, meet in 1940 in the fading splendor of the General's Hungarian castle, after being separated for 41 years, to ponder the events that divided them. This 1942 novel by a forgotten Hungarian novelist, rediscovered and lucidly and beautifully translated, is a brilliant and engrossing tapestry of friendship and betrayal, set against a backdrop of prewar splendor. In the flickering glow and shadow of candlelight, the General recalls the past with neither violence nor mawkish sentiment, but with restrained passion. The two met as boys, Henrik the confident scion of a wealthy, aristocratic family, and Konrad the sensitive son of an impoverished baron. Of their closeness, the General says, "the eros of friendship has no need of the body." When they are young men, Konrad introduces Henrik to Krisztina, the remarkable daughter of a crippled musician. Henrik and Krisztina marry, and the two keep up a close friendship with Konrad, until one morning, on a hunt, Henrik senses that Konrad is about to fire at him. Nothing happens, but Konrad leaves at once, vanishing. For the first time, the General goes to his friend's rooms, and then his wife unexpectedly comes in. He never speaks to her again. Capturing the glamour of the fin de siĆ cle era, as well as its bitter aftermath, M rai eloquently explores the tight and twisted bonds of friendship. (Oct. 2)Forecast: M rai's history he was born in 1900, rose to fame in Hungary in the 1930s, fled the country after WWII and committed suicide in San Diego in 1989, virtually forgotten is at least as compelling as the story he tells here.

link: Indiebound (<-strongly recommended) Amazon:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This thing is in the world...

There is a thing. It is in the world.

You could find it, too, if you looked. It's getting easier and easier to find. People have found it already.

What are you going to do about it, though?

Are you going to help spread the message about it? Are you going to wait and see what happens, and wait and see what you want to do, if you want to do anything?

Tell people about it, if you can.

Spread the word. Share the word. Iterate on it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Look for something and you'll find it.

How good is your google fu?

Can you find it?

It's out there.

You'll know it when you find it.

Good luck.

J M McDermott

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chinese Five Spice Bread, a recipe for a bread machine

I have a bread machine. (Thanks, Mom!) I am using this bread machine. I am using this bread machine to make Chinese Five Spice Bread, which I think is delicious, very much so.

3.25 cups of unbleached plain white flour
1 egg
some milk (I'll explain)
some water (I'll explain)
2 tablespoons of butter
1.25 teaspoons of salt
1.25 teaspoons of sugar
2.25 teaspoons of dry rapid rise yeast
1 abundant fistful of Golden Raisins (I'd guess my meaty palms to be about 1/4 a cup?)
More Savory? 2 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Blend for a more savory bread
OR 1 teaspoon Five Spice+1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon+1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg for a sweeter one.

Step 1: So, get out ye olde machine of bread. Check it for spiders because I know you don't use it enough.

Step 2: Also get out a measuring cup that goes up to 1 cup.

Step 3: Here's where I explain the milk and water. Put the whole egg in the measuring cup. Now, with what's left of that measuring cup, fill it halfway to the top with whole milk, and then fill it the rest of the way to one cup with plain water.

For dry climates, I'd say maybe a little more water. For wet climates, I'd say maybe a little less. You know where you live, right?

Put all the ingredients into the bread machine.

Tell the bread machine to make a medium-sized, white bread.

When the bread is done, pull it out and cool it on a wire rack.

I recommend fig preserves, on top.

I love bread machinery. I love making bread the regular way, but doing it in the machine is just fantastic because I can space out all day long, completely forgetting about the machine while I am working, and the next thing I know there's this wonderful smell coming from the kitchen, and all I had to do was throw some things in a bucket and push a button.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Would anyone here be interested in a book club?

Just curious. I've been thinking about ways to make this site more meaningful than just a big megaphone for my own things.

I've often done book reviews, and promoted things, and tried to use my powers for good. However, there comes a point where I feel like I'm just typing into the dark.

Would anyone be interested in a monthly book club?

I figure I could choose a book (with input from everyone in the comments) and then we all read it. We all post comments about it on a post dedicated to comments about it. I pick and choose what I like best from the comments and pull it up into the main post for the sake of bringing to light interesting things.

I've been thinking about this for all of twenty minutes, but it doesn't seem crazy, yet. A monthly book club, where I pick your book (with your input) and we all read it for fun and commentary. Hopefully it'll be something none of us have read before. I promise I won't just assign everyone Hal Duncan, Jeff VanderMeer and Ekaterina Sedia over and over again like some kind of geeked out fanboy.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I won't be wanting to do these authors at all, for a while, unless something new comes around.

What do you folks, think?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


From the bottom of the boards

The ragged children pile their castles

Sandy crenallations, driftwood guitar chords

And all the happy courtesans

They gather vessels full of sand

The paper moon kite spins the winds

And every body grins and grins

Sandpiper, chase the shells

All is well

A black-skinned girl in chains sings sweet

The way the water filled her floor

boys cursing in Greek beside her cheat

At blackjack while two alabaster twins

hold each other’s hands, don’t swim

The biggest boy holds up a knotty scepter

demanding dancing of toddling jesters

Sandpipers, chase the shells

All is well

By dawn the ocean swallows every moat

The water shatters castle walls

And every sandy township falls. The notes

Of music fade while children fly away,

Terrified to lose themselves to darkness

trapped there, dashing over shorelines

Lonely cries for mothers in the brine

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

when i was in college i'd do this, too, and go out all night, all night, all night

ever go out all night? ever just step out of your own skin, your own life, and seek out a bar, a diner, a bus station or a place like that, where you can just be late into the darkness, and watch the world turn from daylight to starlight and back again?

i did that a few times in college. i slipped out after dark to escape the dormitory, went to the house of pies on kirby, or hung out in a computer lab in the honors college lobby. i even had this spot at the bottom of a stairwell where i could go and read and rest and decompress away from all those people all the time, all those people.

get away from your beds, and your safe places and take to the night. see if you experience something.

i read this book that i liked quite a lot by haruki murakami that dramatized that experience.

a young student reading a book goes to a Denny's, where an acquaintance who had a crush on her sister shows up between practice sessions with a trombone and a cheerful attitude. he sits down to chat with her, a lonely young man with a conspiratorial nature that unpeals in conversation all the layers of defenses that she carries with her to stay safe in the night.

the novel, at the surface, appears to be a series of vignettes that occur in the night, but watch out for all those rambling conversations and stories and cinematic asides into the periphery of two characters - a violent insomiac salaryman and a somnambulist sleeping beauty - and there's layers of meaning wrapped into the words.

imagine each character stepping out of the novel of their own lives, each one capable of carrying a novel on their own. instead, they fall into each other in tokyo, after dark, and reveal the core of their story to each other in conversation, what it all means that they're all trying to communicate, that there is a darkness in the world, rising up from the depths of the unknown and subconscious nightmares, and being together, falling into each other and trying to become one person and to cross the gap between the subconscious depths of two narrators, two novels, two stories...

"after dark" in a city is like saying "in the woods" in a fairytale. the park where children play changes in the nighttime into something hideous and terrifying. the bus lines turn from cheerful commuters to empty, restless men with dead eyes. after dark is when puck and the fairies come out, and wicked men walk the streets, call into a cellphone that lingers in a cheese aisle of a 24 hour food shop, where passing strangers pick it up and hear the terrifying threats. there's a mystery in the world, rising up from the depths of the subconscious, where dreams happen and nightmares happen, too.

the answer to the darkness is to hold each other close. share the dreams and nightmares. talk to each other. just say what you're thinking, and trust the people who are also running into the darkness like you to understand that something important inside of you is trying to escape or you wouldn't be out here so late, deep in the city, where the great mysteries of time linger in every shadow, and people are hurting each other, running from each other, playing jazz music, and trying find something - some truth or something - that they can carry back into the day.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MAZE is coming in March, 2012

I know everyone's been asking me (and calling me on the phone, and e-mailing me, and asking me at conventions, etc.)

So, I just want to make sure we all get this down: March 2012, there will be a book called MAZE. The book trailer for this book is below.

It will be from Apex Books, distributed through Diamond. It was delayed because of the relaunch of Apex Books through its new distributor.

Want to hurry things along? Pick up an Alien Shot and the proceeds go to ensure the publisher doesn't need to put off the book:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

lish carver?

Should I read the unedited Carveror stick to the regular?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Rise of Writers Versus Readers, a theory presented with no evidence whatsoever...

So, I have this theory as to why there are as many aspiring writers as there are readers, and why it seems like there has been an explosion of writers in recent years. It has nothing to do with word processors. It has nothing to do with the rise of outlets for writing in the age of the internet.

I think it's simpler than that. People are unfulfilled working in this country. People grind their lives away pursuing the goals of shareholders and stockholders and upper management and do not have work that interests them, if they have work at all. For the approximately 25-30% of the country unemployed or underemployed, this purposelessness is exacerbated by the general economic woes involved. Ergo, writing books is a home-based business that solves certain problems that home-based businesses often have.

1) Cost of entry is low. A word processor and a web connection and access to mail is all that is required to start.
2) It can actually lead to huge success, if one is dedicated and talented enough, unlike plumbing or envelope stuffing. This is not actually a scam.
3) The work is enjoyable. It is not a grind, most of the time, to sit in one's cave and make stuff up.

With a down economic climate, and one in which real wages have not kept up with demand, we are going to see people get their hustle on, and try to work harder to make something more meaningful. That most work in this country is about as interesting as scraping your face against a cheese shredder only makes the interest in writing more so. Everyone who enjoys reading a book and wants to find a way to increase the annual income in a direction towards meaningful, soulful work will get the virus to scribble into the night.

It's the economy. For the last twenty years, the Reagenomicon has decimated the middle class, and everyone needs to find something to get that hustle on, and get that income up, and find work that doesn't involve layers of management and goals that make no sense most of the time and a culture of greed and efficiency that extricates surgically the soulfulness and joy of good, hard work.

I have no evidence for this. I have done no research. It's only a theory.

Because writing books is hard, and reading them is fun. If more people had fulfilling work, that met their goals and desires financially, there would be more people just reading books and less people writing them.

(I'd still be writing them. This is my megaphone to shout at the world. I would be screaming from my mountaintop even if no one cared to listen. I'm like that. I suspect most of the writers I like best would also keep at it, because none of us are in this for the money nor do we actually make very much money.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Returned home from Armadillocon

At the end of every convention, I feel like the only adequate report that can be offered is this: I survived. I love conventions. I get to meet very cool people from all over the country and the world and we discuss important questions like "Could Red Sonja kick Conan's ass?" and "What are you doing in the ePublishing sphere and is it working?" You know, the highs and lows of pure geekery.

I could namecheck lots of people, but I would like to give a shout out to my workshop participants who all seemed very upbeat and positive at the end of the workshop, despite all of the efforts of the instructors to turn them into the cynical shells of men that Matt Bey and I have become after years of working in the field of SF/F. Thanks for signing up and I hope you encourage other aspiring writers you know to sign up in the future! Also, thanks to Stina Leicht for running the show, and organizing everything down to the point of a much better vegetarian sandwich than I would have otherwise gotten for lunch! Go Stina!

(You know who Stina Leicht is, right? She wrote this:)

I attended some awesome things, including panels with people, all very cool. I also attended some readings by Martha Wells, Matt Bey, Patrice Sarath, Michelle Muenzler, and Rob Rogers. In particular, I'd like to point out Rob Rogers because I discovered that has written what sounds like an excellent and timely sequel to Devil's Cape, and he has just released that fine first novel full of superheros and circus freaks out into the world as an eBook you could go pick up right now!

Let's see, who did I meet...

I'm missing people. I know I'm forgetting people. If I forgot you, I'm sorry, but this is devolving into such a pimp-thread, I may have to get a gold cane and a cape just to get to the end...

One topic of constant conversation among the con-goers was how low attendance was at cons all over the country, how people just weren't showing up. There were people I expected to meet that weren't there, at all. I know times are hard, but it's hard to see it happening right there in front of me among one of the best conventions in all of the south.

FenCon is coming. I won't be there, but I wish I could. If you're in Texas, go. It's a great Con. Lots of cool people, awesome panels, and good times will be had.

The journey was long. Texas is in a serious drought. When I drove in, it was raining so hard in Louisiana that I had to pull over and rest along the side of the road. I crossed the border into Texas and there was an instant shift from green to brown. There's this big Catfish shack on the border between Texas and Louisiana, and the rear of it is green, out by the dumpsters, but the front of it is brown where people are parking their pickup trucks. Drive down into Austin and see how desolate it's become there. Everyone's zeroscaping their yards. Everyone's talking about the politics of water and the death of the aquifer that's been open for business too long, too long, and too widely. There's a reason people weren't building up so much before, you know. It wasn't because they didn't want to push into the hill country. It's because there isn't enough water for everybody. Once upon a time, a farmer would stand up in the courtroom and say that, and people would respect him. These days, they just laugh him down. 100 years is a long time until everything runs out. Lots of money to be made between then and now. Who cares that it is an eyeblink of a protozoa clinging to a grain of the sand of time? They don't. They don't care what world will be left for the people after them whom they will never meet. By then, they'll be long gone. Pull the water up from the ground. Keep building above the aquifers. Retail malls and outlet malls and housing complexes as far as the eye can see, because 100 years from now, when these empty concrete shells collapse upon their imperfect construction, designed for less than 100 years life, there won't be a person left on this ground that has a choice about it, and by then all the money accumulated will help drive the family ever east, ever east, ever east, back where there is an ocean and some mountains that will stay up above the rising waters of the great, big melt.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I think this is the 3rd time I've been "done" with this thing...

The problem with integrated collections about Greek Mythology is that there is quite a lot of mythology to play with, and no shortage of ideas bouncing around my head.

I think I'm done. This is the third time I thought I was done.

Time will tell.

I'm at my father's house, passing through on my way to austin. the dogs are anxious. they want to go around the block. they want to play and eat and play some more.

I think they might be right.

so, in the mean time, it's going to be all steampunk all the time, then.

I don't actually believe in Steampunk as a literary movement. I believe in it as a fashion movement that was such a powerful and timely aesthetic idea that it tumbled out into other forms of art. It's like how there are really strange poems and plays from Marcel DeChamp's hobby-horsery, but it was always, really, about the paintings and sculptures and breakdown of form and imagery and definitions of the visual, tactile arts.

Still, I'm writing me some. It's going all right. Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Future of Everything

I am in Texas, at my mother's house, surrounded by brown, drought-ravaged yards and plants, sitting in an air conditioned house with a glass of water beside me and the constant distraction of dogs.

I have decided to reveal the future of everything.

The future of business, every business, is the death of every business, because they will all collapse under the weight of changing business models and bad investments and better competitors.

The future of reading is the end of reading, because literacy was invented and is more precarious than we could possibly imagine in a world where reading is not as valuable a skill as programming, and it is only a matter of time until programming is the preferred language in text form.

The future of programming are programs that design other programs, because people couldn't be bothered to learn all the intricacies of whatever language of programming iterates while machinery produce tool after tool after tool.

The future of machinery is to get smaller. There are only so many power plants that can run on this earth without killing us all, and we are already over our limit.

Get smaller. Think local. Think illiterately.

We will walk away from all these futile devices, and return to agriculture.

We will tumble away from agriculture as crops fail and new insects learn to eat old plants. We will have to forage.

We will all be foraging, with no businesses to hire us, and no books to teach us, and no programs to bother reaching out a robot hand to ours and no power plants to send the bill collectors after us.

We will all be foraging.

There will be tribes.

They will want to leave messages for each other that will look like heiroglyphics on stone walls.

This is what will happen to us, and to everything with us.

Also, the sun is a finite resource, and even if it is a slow burn, it is the only burn we have.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something I just wrote about in tweets...

Read backwards as I just cut-and-pasted it.

In the current climate, it is still better to pursue major magazines first, but unless a semi-pro carries some cachet, it's better to DiY.
29 seconds ago Favorite Reply Delete

The experience has changed my perspective on short fiction, in general, and I expect I will be doing more original short stories via eBook.
1 minute ago

The bits are always distributed, exactly where people can find them, and I just have to keep producing more data bits...
2 minutes ago

Though I still think it is not fully "here" as a writing business. In two years? Three? Five? The accounting and distribution is too good.
2 minutes ago

The other neat thing is patience: I'm not racing against the death spiral to move units of product. I've got no PR, no hurry, and just write
3 minutes ago

And, that this amount is small is a temporary thing, I think, as more and more readers turn to eBooks on their various devices and many small amounts add up over time.
4 minutes ago

It's simply breathtaking to open up a browser window, and know what I'm owed and exactly when it will arrive to the day. Even if it's small.
5 minutes ago

My eBook experiments indicate to me that this will be the future of books, if only because of the way accounting and payments work. #ontime

I'm in this anthology...

My short story, "Dedalus and the Labyrinth" is the very first story in this collection, from Apex Publications, among what appears to be an excellent bunch of stories.

This particular work of fantasy was the first glimmer in the brain of what was going to become a science fiction/interstitial novel called MAZE that's coming out when it comes out from Apex.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My agent is a very smart and talented man, and I agree with him almost all the time, and sometimes I have doubts. Nagging doubts. I am mortal, you see, and no matter what when you are a writer you are plagued with doubts. Is this the right project to pursue? Is this good enough? What if the market shifts and this sort of thing becomes cliche? Am I going to get paid on time this time, or do I get to wait for months again before the unnamed group that owes me money pays me the money I need to live...

Lots of doubts and confusion in the career of a writer, you see. And, we have most of the day to sit around and think about things, and it takes a strong force of will to quiet ones' doubts.

I have doubts. I agree with my agent, in theory, but I have doubts.

My literary agent has advised me to put this particular project on hold for a while, and even then thinks only the smallest of the small publishers would be after it. I agree with him, in part, because I can only think of a handful of places to submit this particular integrated collection of stories, none of them offering the sort of advances I could muster with the literary steampunk cinderella story I'm pulling out of my head with sharp tines at the moment.

Then, I second-guess my agent because I also think that maybe this is a powerful thing that the world would love, if it knew it existed, and maybe some of it is the best writing I've done to date. My imagination will not let this go. My gut will not let this go. I think maybe my agent knows epic fantasy really well, and literary fiction really well, and the in-between stuff maybe he doesn't know so well because there isn't the sort of money involved that one would get with the stuff that has a clear category, but defining a category is the way to build a career and my gut says this is the right thing to pursue and publish. I think that the writers that have seen pieces of this project, the good writers like Liz Hand and Scott Wolven and Jim Kelly, have completely flipped out for it.

Pieces of this thing have been selling to magazines. One was in The Raleigh Review. Another was in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. Another will be in Paul Jessup's Coffin Mouth. When it comes to Greek Mythology, the women and the monsters never get to tell their own stories. Always they are the tossed-away baggage and victims and ruins left in the wake of the gods, goddesses and mighty heroes, who all mostly acted like selfish asshats and were praised for it. We all think of Orpheus, and never wonder what Eurydice wanted when she did not answer to her name, or what the Nemean Lion thought about becoming such an icon of a monstrous man, or what happened to Ariadne after she was abandoned on an island and had to just live her own life after the labyrinth and after Theseus. (Gosh, Theseus was such an ass...) Circe was a mighty sorceress with her own goddamn island but all anyone remembers is that a man committed adultery there, abandoning her wondrous immortality for a woman that he wouldn't see for nineteen years. Nausicaa became a woman without Odysseus around, and maybe she had her own odyssey. The muse never gets to tell her own version of things. Sing, muse, for yourself.

Anyway, it's a book. It's very strange. It's shifty, too, with some things in the past and some things in the now, and many things in between places, with magic and whimsy and surrealism as casual as breathing. I'm trying hard to clean up the last three of the fictions that I think that I want: Io and Cerynitis and Aphrodite/Athena. Maybe there's more stories to tell, because there are so many women and monsters of mythology that didn't get to speak their own stories.

I want this book to be in the world somewhere. My instinct is telling me once it is picked up it will be loved by the sort of people you want to love your books, the sort who read lots of them and share them with others and really care about them. My agent says no one will want it but the smallest of the small presses, and we should sit on it a while because maybe I'm going to keep writing more of them and maybe the market isn't ripe for this sort of thing. Maybe it won't be for a long while. I don't know if I agree with him or not, the more I think about it, because if the writing is good - if it is really, really good - maybe. Just maybe.

What do you think, world? Anyone out there have any ideas or insight?

Do you, my fans, become excited at the thought of a Literary Steampunk Cinderella story, or would you prefer more surrealism and fabulism?

When I wake up tomorrow, I will work on what you tell me to work on, either/or. It is unfair not to say too much about the steampunk project when I go on about the other one, but the very words "Literary Steampunk Cinderella" are about enough when you consider the sort of books I have already written, and sort of what that might look like in my capable hands.

What should I work on today?

I'll be volunteering on this farm until late afternoon. When I get home, we'll make dinner with what they give us on the farm, and then I will work. My time working will be dictated by you.

(Also, if you happen to be a publisher and your interest is piqued by this collection idea, no harm in dropping me a line, is there? I mean, it's not anyone's fault you read this on my blog. No harm telling me why it would never work, either.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

do you speak bee? (and, a giveaway...)

I'm writing new stories, frantically, some under deadline, some not. I'm writing and writing.


I speak bee. No one believes it, but I learned the language. My mother taught it to me, when I was very young. What you do is you place honey on your finger, your nose, and then a splash of floral perfume upon the back of your jeans. Then, you go into a field to speak to the bees, who find you because of the smell, and then they watch you to see what you have to say. You shiver, and move forward, then shiver again. Shivering looks like shaking your butt, like shimmying, but it’s not. It’s shivering. It’s a complex language. It took years of practice.
My mother was an expert. She could guide the flocks of bees over the highway, into safe harbors all over the city. Someone had to keep them safe from the killing men, that came in fancy trucks to spray the streets. Someone had to protect the bees from the changing places, where the old buildings that should have been a refuge were doomed to be rebuilt.
In this world, no one cares about the bees. Father doesn’t care about them. He doesn’t believe in my mother. He says the powerlines have changed everything. Everything will be connected together that’s human, and anything that can’t ride along the lines might as well be forgotten.
My mother agrees with him when he says that, but she still taught me to speak bee....


There's a giveaway next door, at the Night Bazaar, where I was asked to speak a little about world-building, and I did, late at night, when I was awake far too late, because I was afraid of something terrible.


Often, I am bored by world-building in the books I read. I’m not really into “cool” worlds. I read for characters and to find the questions of my life that I did not know I was supposed to be asking. I mean, really, what matter whether a river is purple or a mountain is made of glass if the people of that world are not changed by it in some fashion, and not just in that they need special shoes to walk on the purple water and climb the glass mountains? I mean imagine that the glass of the mountain is a metaphor for a bright, shining, religious lie, and it is so massive that all the stained glass windows in the world have been thrown up together into one, huge monument to the lies. I mean that the character who climbs this mountain discovers a truth upon it that makes the monument a lie, because the thing that inspired it all was wrong to begin with. Things are different for a reason, and it has to do with art. Otherwise, we’re just messing with reality for the sake of making reality cooler than it is, and it feels lazy to me because reality is actually very cool, already.


Go there, and leave a comment there, and be entered in a giveaway to receive both LAST DRAGON and NEVER KNEW ANOTHER.

Comment here, and I will offer you nothing but a nod, which is invisible to you as far away as you are from me in this world

I noticed a story in the New York Times about something Angie and I did yesterday, by the way. We have so many foraged figs from a friend's backyard. She's out of town, and told us to sneak into her backyard and take figs. She has so many, and they're just sitting there, ripe and delicious and about to rot. So, we pulled in yesterday morning, slipped into a strange backyard, and went nuts to gather about six pounds of figs right from the tree at a house that's abandoned for most of the summer. I call them our "ninja figs" because I felt like a ninja sneaking into a yard to get them. (We were invited to do it, and not trespassing, but her neighbors didn't know that!)

The people in this article are friends of friends, on the local farmer's market scene where my fiance works every day. They're right to do what they're doing, too. At the EAV markets, every dollar of food stamp is worth two dollars in produce. The people who need it most get what they need at a better price.

Don't let the food rot on the tree or the vine, I say. Atlanta has so many empty houses, empty yards, empty lots. If we don't do something about this place, we'll end up like Detroit, all hollowed out and polluted with drugs and crime in all these empty houses. I hope it works out for us.

I'm going back to work, now. Input/output... Io.... Mourn with the bees..